This is the 6th and last part in this series. If you say that you believe in the doctrine of election, from the Old Testament is should also be very clear that God had elected Israel for a future glorious Kingdom and salvation.
Premillennialism is biblical. Scripture indeed teaches a future one-thousand year reign of Christ on the earth, explicitly and exactly as Revelation 20 describes it. There will be the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Israel in the past, given through the Abrahamic Covenant, Davidic Covenant and New Covenant. All of God’s people through history, and not only Israel, including the redeemed church and the redeemed in the time of the Tribulation all enjoy the blessings of that glorious reign.
Unfortunately, Amillennialists deny the truths of an actual earthly Kingdom and the future salvation of Israel. On the other hand, Post-millennialists say there is going to be some sort of spiritual kingdom on earth, but Christ will not come until it’s over.
Now to go back to the foundation where we will end up with Christ on earth, reigning in Israel, in Jerusalem, over a redeemed nation of Israel and all the saints gathered around. These saints include both those who returned from heaven with Christ, and those who were saved during the Tribulation and will enter into the Kingdom in physical form.
That is explicitly what Scripture says and there is never a reason to spiritualize, to allegorize, or to try and explain a text away if the plain meaning is clear. Only if the context gives compelling reason to assume that the language is somehow symbolic or spiritual should you ever look for any other than the obvious meaning.
Christ will return to earth to judge the world and establish His Kingdom for a thousand years during which Satan and his demons will be bound. Revelation 20 settles this and there is no other passage in Scripture that suggests any different scenario. All of the many Old Testament prophecies concerning this final Kingdom harmonize best with literal earthly kingdom. Christ reigning, Israel receiving the fulfillment of all its promises and all the saints gathered there as well.
God made covenants with Israel, promises to Israel, plans for Israel for a future Kingdom, and these are reiterated again and again in the Old Testament and repeated even in the New Testament. This Kingdom is described so clearly in the book of Revelation, along with the salvation of Israel, necessarily since 144 thousand Jews in the future will preach the gospel. There will be a great awakening in the city of Jerusalem where the whole population will give glory to God, as described in Revelation 11. The promises of God are unilateral, unconditional, and irrevocable.
LUKE 20 – THE PARABLE OF THE WINE GROWERS
So where does Amillennialism come from? Let us look at Luke 20. It is in the context of a parable that our Lord gave about a man who owned agricultural land. He owned a vineyard and went away on a long journey and he rented out his land to contract workers. They had skill in developing grapes but did not own the land. They get to keep a fair portion of the crop and they pay to the owner a percentage agreed upon in a contract. Then time comes for the owner to send his slave to collect what is his but they abuse the slave and give him nothing. He sends a second and a third one and they do the same. He then send his beloved son as he thought that they would at least have respect for his son. But when the vine growers saw the son, they reasoned with one another saying, “This is the heir, let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours.” They then killed him. The owner of the vineyard would then destroy those vine growers and give the vineyard to others.
Very clear story. It is a story about Israel’s history. Israel is God’s vineyard. God chose them to be His special people, to receive His revelation, to be stewards of the covenants and the Scriptures and all divine truth. God puts over them certain leaders, the priests, even the kings and the elders, all of those who are responsible to bring leadership to that people with a view toward producing in them fruit unto righteousness, which then could be offered to God in an expression of worship and praise. The leaders of Israel failed miserably. In fact, they killed the prophets.
Remember that Jesus described Jerusalem in Matthew 23 and again in Luke 13, as Jerusalem who killed the prophets and stoned those that were sent to them. Through all their history when prophets came from God demanding some spiritual fruit, demanding that the people give an account for what they owed God by way of obedience and worship, they rejected the prophets. Finally God says, “I’ll send My Son.” He sends His Son, they kill the Son. What will He do? He will give the vineyard to others.
Now there are people who think that this spells out in very clear terms the end of Israel and that all the promises are therefore cancelled. God is giving spiritual privilege, the stewardship of Scripture and the custodianship of divine truth to others. And that is absolutely true.
But the question is, just exactly who the others are? In Matthew 21:43 where the story recorded by Matthew, it says, “The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation or a people bringing forth the fruit of it.” So the vineyard is the Kingdom of God, and the sphere where God works. It is the sphere of God’s Kingdom. The sphere in which God is working His salvation. And the first group of people who could be called God’s vineyard, or God’s Kingdom, were the Jews but their leaders were false and did not lead them into righteousness.
So God will carve out a new people with new leaders. The first generation of those new leaders is the Apostles who were given power and authority by Christ over disease, death, and demons. They were given insight into the truths that were hidden from everybody else, who were given the explanation of parables and analogies and stories that our Lord told while the others never heard the explanation. So while it was darkness to the others, it was light to His Apostles and His disciples. They were given, as Matthew 16 says, the keys to the Kingdom. They were given the gospel and the gospel truth to open the doors to salvation.
Following them, we see the New Testament prophets. Then, according to Ephesians, the evangelists and the teaching pastors, all the way down to today, those who are the guardians, the proclaimers, the teachers and the instructors of New Testament gospel truth. They are the new vine growers. And under their leadership the Kingdom of God has moved from being predominantly in the realm of the Jews to being predominantly Gentile.
This is all true and not arguable. Luke, in Acts 13:46 as a matter of fact said, “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the Word of God should be spoken to you first because you were God’s original chosen nation. Since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles, for thus…verse 47…the Lord has commanded us. I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth.’ And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord and as many as been appointed to eternal life believed.”
There was definitely a turning to the Gentiles, a new leadership and a new vineyard, a new people that embody the Kingdom. In Acts 18:6, Paul once again said, “Your blood be upon your own heads, I am clean. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.”
The church extends to the ends of the earth. The question is, is the displacement of Israel as God’s chosen people in the middle of His redemptive plan, with the Apostles and prophets and evangelists and teaching pastors of the church, permanent? And that gets us to the question that must be answered.
THE DISPLACEMENT OF ISRAEL – PERMANENT OR TEMPORARY?
Amillennialists and Postmillennialists say yes – the displacement is permanent. Scripture says no. You can see that the leaders of Judaism are not the leaders of God’s vineyard, that the Jewish people are not the people of God but rather that the leaders of the true church and the true church are.
The answer whether permanent or not, is given in Romans 11:25, “I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed,” or to put it another way, “I do not want you, brethren, to be Amillennialists.” “Lest you be wise in your own estimation that a partial hardening,” has happened to Israel. Only partial because there are many Jews who have come to faith in Jesus Christ. Then in Acts 18, or Acts 13:48 and in Luke 21:24-26 we read that when the fullness of the Gentiles come and all of them have been gathered, then all Israel will be saved. This goes back to Isaiah 59:20, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob and this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.” This is a partial hardening of Israel and it is a temporary one. Yes, from the standpoint of the gospel, they are enemies for the sake of the church because they rejected the gospel. But from the standpoint of God’s choice, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. What does that mean? For the sake of God’s promises and covenants made to the fathers in Genesis. For the gifts and calling of God are irrevokable. God does not go back on His Word.
If you then look at the future, you see then a time for Israel’s salvation and for all the Kingdom promises to be fulfilled. Zechariah 8:1, “Then the Word of the Lord of host came saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of host, I’m exceedingly jealous for Zion,’” that’s for Israel, “‘I’m jealous for great wrath for her.’” I’m angry jealous. “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.’” “Then Jerusalem will be called the city of truth.” It’s not now, it wasn’t the first time Jesus came. Not only will Jerusalem be called the city of truth, but the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the holy mountain. Jerusalem will become the source of truth and holiness.
And then go down to verse 20. “Peoples will come, nations will come, inhabitants of many cities will come.” This describes the Kingdom, they’ll come from all over the world. “They’ll go to one another saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, to seek the Lord of hosts I will also go. So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and entreat the favor of the Lord.’” The twenty-third verse, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, in those days ten men from all the nations, ten Gentiles, will hang on the garment of a Jew saying, Let’s go with you for we have heard that God is with you.” God will come back to Israel, save Israel, dwell in the presence of the people of Israel gathered in the Kingdom. This is basically echoed in Micah 4 as well.
Jerusalem, the center of the Kingdom of Christ over this whole earth, will be the source of truth and from it will go the Word of the Lord and from it will go holiness and He will rule with righteousness and peace over the whole earth. And the Jews will be at the center of that in the fulfillment of everything God promised to the fathers.
There is nothing in the writings of the New Testament that says the promises to Israel are cancelled and transferred to the church. There is nothing that cancels the future earthly reign of Jesus Christ in favor of some spiritual reign from heaven.
GALATIANS 6:16 SPEAKS TO THE JEWS
One other passage Amillennialists use is Galatians 6:16. Paul says, “Those who walk by this rule,” that is those who walk according to the salvation in the cross, according to grace, and are new creations, “For them peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God.” Amillennialists say the Israel of God must refer to the church. That is certainly not apparent in the text. The very simple meaning here is Jews who are saved, they are the Israel of God, as contrasted with those who are the subject of this Galatian letter. Judaizers came in and corrupted the churches of Paul, spreading their salvation by circumcision, by ceremony and by keeping the Law. They did not flagrantly deny Christ, they just wanted to add law-keeping and circumcision. They are not the true believers. They are not the Israel of God.
This is language that is not unfamiliar to Paul. Romans 2:28, “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that which is of the heart by the Spirit.” Paul is talking about the Jew who really belongs to God because he has been transformed by belief in the gospel on the inside. In Romans 9:6 Paul continues, “It is not as though the Word of God has failed, they are not Israel who are descended from Israel. Not all Israel is Israel.” The Israel of God simply means genuine Jewish believers and there are in the church many genuine Jewish believers. In fact, when the church began in Jerusalem and three thousand Jews were saved, and expanded in Jerusalem to as many as twenty thousand or more and they were Jews until the gospel went to Antioch and from there was launched into the Gentile world. But even when the gospel was taken to the Gentile world, they went, first of all, to the synagogue and preached the gospel to the Jews.
AMILLENNIALISM CAME AFTER THE BIBLE
So the Apostles didn’t teach Amillennialism. Jesus didn’t teach it. If it is not in the Bible, then it has to be after the Scripture. Let us look at the early church fathers. Papias, who was born when John was still alive and who lived right at the close of the apostolic era, said there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on the earth.
There are others who also said there definitely will be a Kingdom. Even Justin Martyr who lived from 100 to 165 said, “But I and others who are right minded Christians on all points are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem which then will be built, adorned and enlarged as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.” On and on the history goes and they all agreed on the earthly Kingdom. They took a literal, normal, natural approach to Scripture and they came up with a millennium. And Christ coming first, establishing the Kingdom, followed by, of course, the general resurrection and judgment.
Even John Calvin could not ignore this. Calvin, by the way, was hard on any allegorical interpretation of any passage. He wrote, “The error of allegory has been the source of many evils, not only did it open the way for adulteration of the natural meaning of Scripture, but also set up boldness in allegorizing as the chief exegetical virtue.” Calvin, of course, resented all of that. He was instrumental in the Geneva Bible, 1575, and the Geneva Bible says this, “The blindness of the Jews is neither so universal that the Lord has no elect in that nation, neither will it be continual, for there will be a time in which they also will effectually embrace that which they now so stubbornly and for the most part reject and refuse.” There is no other way to interpret Scripture.
Unless you change the meaning of Israel and Israel does not mean Israel, or unless you come up with some wild allegorical interpretation of what is otherwise simple and straight-forward language, you can’t have the church replacing Israel and receiving some spiritual fulfillment.
THE EARLIER DAYS OF AMILLENNIALISM
But even though some of these fathers saw an actual reign of Christ to some degree or another, a growing anti-Semitism began to crawl through the early church and cause some to resent the Jews and seek to replace them. There were actually early church fathers who called the church the new Israel like Justin Martyr, from 100 to 165, who wanted to hold on to a millennium, but wanted the church to replace Israel.
He was followed by another somewhat familiar church father named Origen, who established the allegorical method for interpretation of Scripture and he allegorized the text related to Israel. But perhaps the most notable contributor to making the church the new Israel was Augustine in the fifth century. And it did come from a growing resentment toward Jews related to the fact that they had rejected Christ.
It had a very, very profound effect on the church in the Middle and Dark Ages. Israel had rituals, rather than preaching. Roman Catholicism came right out of that concept. If the church is the new Israel, we need an altar. You will never see an altar in a Christian church. We do not offer sacrifices, even a repeated supposed sacrifice of Jesus Christ, horror of horrors. We do not have priesthood. We do not have a Jubilee Year. We are not caught up in symbols, ceremonies, and ritual. But all of that got imported out of the worship of the Old Testament into quasi-Christianity in the Medieval church. From the formation of the church in those early centuries through to the present day, Roman Catholicism is Judaism recast. They commune with God through rituals, sacraments, which is it is in the hands of priests. It is institutional and not personal.
THE EFFECT OF REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY ON EVANGELIZING JEWS
Another effect of replacement theology, it the damaging effect on Jewish evangelism. How do you explain to an orthodox Jew in Israel that Jesus is his Messiah? His first response would most probably be, Where is the Kingdom?” If all the cruel realities of this world and the treatment of Israel by the nations are taken into consideration, it would be very hard to sell, if you tell him that the Kingdom is already here. Where is the Son of David reigning on the throne? Where is truth and holiness?
Are you, as an amillennialist going to tell him, “Well, it’s not for you but Jesus is still your Messiah. God cancelled all His covenants and promises with you and He’s given them to us and we’d like to share them with you. We are God’s new elect people, chosen by Him for eternal salvation and blessing, and you’re out?”
Then the Old Testament is not true and can’t be trusted. And if God did that to the Jews, why could He be trusted for what He said to the Gentiles?
Even the amillennialis can not get away from what Scripture says. Jonathan Edwards says the Jews and all their dispersions shall cast away their old infidelity and shall have their hearts wonderfully changed and hate themselves for their past unbelief and obstinacy. And it was Edwards who said the church was the new Israel, but he still couldn’t deny the future conversion of Israel.
The future salvation of Israel is established unmistakably in Romans 11. First of all, God is glorified. God is glorified in advance of what is coming. His Covenants and all His promises do not depend on human inability. They depend on sovereign grace. He reigns in glory on the earth. The last vision of this earth, seeing Jesus, was hanging on a cross. They’ll see Him again when He comes in blazing glory. Every eye sees Him, fills the earth with His glory and judgment and the Kingdom. Getting it right in the future glorifies God and exalts Christ.
The Holy Spirit is honored in the mighty work of regeneration of that final nation Israel, that final group of ethnic Jews who according to Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 and 37, will be given the Holy Spirit.
Another benefit of getting it right is Scripture becomes clear. A uniform hermeneutic or set of principles is maintained, not arbitrarily set aside to eliminate Israel and substitute the church which leads to all manner of eschatological confusion and spiritualization of redemptive history. You keep intact the greatest historical illustration of sovereign election. God has elected Israel and He preserved them to their final salvation. This is how His election works. He keeps His promise and His Covenant.
Also the meaning of mystery in the New Testament is maintained. Over, and over, and over in the New Testament we are told that the New Testament is the mystery hidden in ages past, now revealed. The church is not just Israel moved into a new segment. The church is a mystery hidden, not seen. It is something brand new, unknown in the Old Testament.
Normal language serves to interpret all Scripture including eschatology. Just take what it says. Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near.”
The book of Revelation is not written for mystics, it’s not written for allegorists. It’s not written for people who are academics. It’s not written for people with wild and vivid imaginations. It is written for the life of the church. That means it has to be taken at face value.
Also, the chronology of Scripture should be left intact. For example, Revelation, chapters 1 to 3, you have the church on earth. Chapters 4 and 5, the church appears in heaven, which means the church has been Raptured. Chapter 6 through 19, back to earth, the Tribulation, divine wrath explodes on the earth. Chapter 19, the Tribulation ends with the return of Christ. Chapter 20, He sets up His Kingdom, reigns for a thousand years. Chapter 21 and 22, the New Heaven and the New Earth. Simple chronology left intact.
Premillennialism is the only view that allows Christ to be honored as supreme ruler over His creation now temporarily in the hands of Satan.